Sherry White Jeffcoat, Guest Writer
Fall always does this to me. It has since I was a little girl. It makes me happy, nostalgic, and more energetic. It also makes me sad. How can that be, that it makes me both sad and happy?
Well, the answer is I have too good of a memory. You would think that is a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing, because you don’t forget anythingggg, the good nor the bad. Today when I was walking my dogs in the park, I was looking up at the clear blue sky, feeling fall in the air, when suddenly memories started flooding my mind of all the things I miss.
I could hear the children playing on the playground at the junior high school that I went to almost 50 years ago. Ouch that hurt to write. I miss buying school supplies, getting new notebooks, pencil bags, and school clothes. It was an event in our family. We would take a whole day and drive to Columbus and go into every store in town looking for those perfect school clothes. Of course this was before malls existed. Everyone shopped downtown, and what a fun thing that was. When we would get hungry at lunch and needed a break from the shopping, we would eat at one of the little cafeterias in downtown Columbus. There were several back then.
After our lunch, we would hit the streets again, usually winding up at McClellans for the school supplies. I remember the smell of popcorn when you would enter the store. It had hardwood floors as it still does today although it has been many years since it was a store. You could buy popcorn and eat it while you shopped. They had a little bit of everything and it was magical. At Christmas, Mama would give my sister, brother, and me each a couple of dollars and we would all split up to go hide from each other to buy each other Christmas gifts. We would dart in and out of the aisles trying not to let each other see what we were buying.
My little brother, Mike, always went with us on our trip to buy school clothes. Back then hardly anyone ever used babysitters. Boy we sure needed one for him then. He would run and hide in the clothes racks, the ones that spin around. I remember one store called The Three Sisters that we loved to shop in and Mike would be causing pandemonium making Mama have to call out “MIKE” every 3 minutes. In and out of the racks, up and down stairs, hiding, yelling, embarrassing my sister and me, even Mama. I have to laugh now remembering my own children doing the same thing years later.
It was such a bonding experience though. At the end of the day, my sister, brother, Mama, and I would head home back out into the country with our prized new clothes, or at Christmas our little gifts to run hide or wrap.
I miss that.
I miss high school and the excitement of seeing all of our friends back together, catching up on each other’s summers…admiring each others new school clothes….seeing if we had any classes together when we compared schedules. The school building even had a certain smell. Even today I remember that smell. Fall at school of course included the thrill of our football team and the pep rallies. Every Friday night on crisp cool nights we would be huddled in the bleachers or cheering on the field. We were young and immortal.
I miss that.
I miss coming in from school during some years when Mama didn’t have to work and was home waiting on us. The house smelled of homemade teacakes and supper in the oven. The house was warm and inviting and safe. The years Mama did have to work, what a difference going home made. The house felt cold and empty. Often, she would have us come to where she was working and let us do our homework in the car and stock us with cokes in the little bottles and candy to tide us over until she got off work. She and Daddy would always ask about our “schoolwork” as they would call it. They would make sure we did that before we were allowed to play. They were always there to help if we needed it, but made it clear we were do to it on our own. Our house was in the country, miles from the nearest neighbor, and very small. I didn’t know it was small then. When I pass it now, it seems so tiny, yet to me back then it was just home, warm, welcoming, safe home.
I miss that.
Fall represented so many beginnings to me. My birthday is in October so of course that gave me a boost. It was the beginning of cooler weather, Thanksgiving and Christmas would be drawing nearer, and I just felt full of some kind of promise of good things to come, happy to be young and alive and healthy.
I miss that.
Families for the most part were larger back when we were growing up. If your immediate family wasn’t big, your extended family probably was. Most of us had many aunts and uncles and tons of cousins. Reunions were common. Today you don’t hear of reunions as much. Everyone would bring their favorite recipes, several people would bring their homemade ice cream makers, and the talking, laughing, playing, and eating didn’t seem to stop. Often we kids were called over to sit on the ice cream maker when it was getting hard for the men to crank them because the ice cream was finally getting harder. Daddy would be pouring the ice cream salt down all around the sides and would put a towel for us to sit on so he could finish turning it. They made banana, vanilla, chocolate, and even lemon.
We loved to hear our parents and the adults talking and laughing. They would be hashing and rehashing old stories and the laughter was loud and contagious. When it started getting dark, we kids would run around chasing lightning bugs and putting them in jars with holes poked in the top so they could breathe. What ever happened to the lightning bugs? I haven’t seen them since I was a child. They were a part of every evening, their beauty and mystery catching everyone’s admiration.
I miss that.
I miss so many things that I don’t have the space to list them, but those memories are all stored in my mind, most of them loving and good ones. Today I miss different things, things that are more painful because I don’t have that youth, health, or big family any more. I miss my mama and daddy more than I ever thought possible. I remember every little thing about them both….their smell, the shape of their hands, their laughter….their love. No one will ever love you in this world like your mother and father love you, and when they are gone, the world is a lonelier and scarier place. I still feel their love, but I miss their presence, their smiles, their comfort. I often want to be a child again when you slept with no worries, when you welcomed your days with joy and your biggest fear might be that you were having a test.
I miss that.
All of those things I talked about were triggered just by this fall day and of my younger days. Not all of the things I miss were when I was a child though. I miss the days when MY children were little. I miss seeing them playing T Ball, soccer, going to their PTA nights when they would show us their little desks, and introduce us to new friends and their teachers. I miss seeing them tucked in their beds and knowing that they were safe and warm just as I was when I was at that age.
I miss hearing all of the giggly teenage girl talk from my daughter and her friends, and the Nintendo music of Mario constantly in the background from my son and his friends. I miss taking them around at Halloween, making sure I was in the background, yet letting them think they were going it alone from house to house. I remember the first time I let them go to the playground by themselves, or so they thought. I was behind the building watching every move they made.
I miss that and so much more.
Thank you for going down Memory Lane with me.